Monday, June 19, 2017

Searching For Real Thing: Gold

June 12, 2017 © Thomas J. Kollenborn. All Rights Reserved.

We all are searching for something in life. Some of us find the reality of this world a bit offensive and choose another endeavor. This endeavor becomes an object, hobby, or way of life. Looking for gold is a wonderful and sometimes rewarding hobby. I have spent more than thirty years writing about those who search for gold or treasure in the Superstition Mountains. Not too long ago, somebody asked “why do you choose to write about such a group of individuals?” I have decided it is time to explain my interest and why I write about this topic. Nyle Leatham introduced me to the world of writing for a newspaper three or four decades ago when we spent eight days on the Colorado River together rafting between Lee’s Ferry and Lake Mead. You might call the trip an “adventure of a lifetime,” but I have had many more. Of those who are constantly having an adventure of some kind—whether it is searching for Bigfoot or gold—the search for gold appears to be the most popular with them. The following story should peak your imagination.
John Wilburn and I examining placer gold
from the Superstition Mining District c. 1977.

There are those who will tell you there is no gold in the Superstition Wilderness Area and that may be true, however, there is certainly gold deposits around the region’s interior. I have witnessed gold being recovered within five miles of Miner’s Needle. This was a placer deposit worked by an old prospector named Robert L. Garman. Garman started finding placer gold shortly after 1955. He wasn’t really interested in the placer—he believed there was a rich ore deposit nearby. He spent thirty years looking for the origin of his placer gold in the Hewitt Canyon area. He sincerely believed the “Peg Leg” Tumlinson map was accurate and authentic. He had acquired a copy of the map and used it faithfully for more than twenty-five years. There are those who believed Garman found the rich “Peg Leg” deposit believing it was the old Dutchman’s mine. Garman certainly had some very rich samples of gold in quartz with similarities of the quartz in the metamorphic prong of Hewitt Canyon.

There are several individuals who know and understand the geology of the metamorphic prong of Hewitt Canyon. A lot of prospects have been dug in the area and some have been extended to depths of 75 feet or more. Almost all of them have exhibited mineralization, some gold and some silver. However, none have produced any large quantity of gold or silver. The Hatches, Woodburys, Rogers, and others have tried their hand at mining in this area in the 1890’s to 1930’s with little results. The work at Roger’s Trough was brought on by the discovery and development of the Silver Chief Mine just west of Roger’s Trough. There was a good spring in the area and the mine owners set up a mill at Roger’s Trough to process the ore from the Silver Chief. The Woodburys sunk a shaft near the base of the mountain and found a little gold, but not enough to pay for their operation. This was true with other mines in the area. None ever became producers like the Silver King north of Superior.

Monte Edwards and I inspecting a gold claim near Weaver Needle in 1981.
Robert Garman left quite a legacy in his search for gold in the Hewitt Canyon area. He eventually wrote a book about his exploits titled Mystery Gold of the Superstitions (1975). Robert Garman was by no means the first man searching for the real wealth of the Superstition Mountain region. John Wilburn came to Arizona in 1967 searching for gold. He immediately eliminated the Superstition Wilderness Area in his mind and decided the gold had to be in the Superstition Mining District because that was where gold was discovered in the 1890’s. Wilburn devoted the next fifty years to searching for gold in the area around the old Mammoth Mine. He discovered a couple of sites and sold his claims for a good price. He proved there was still gold in the immediate area of the Superstition Mining District. He wintered at the Bluebird Mine working for the Ruizes. For many years he could be found on the veranda of the Bluebird. It was there that people sought him out to hear his stories about gold mining in the area. In recent years I have seen tapes on Facebook of John Wilburn being interviewed about the gold of the Superstition Mining District. Yes, there is still enough gold to attract people to this region in search of it. However, few have found any that has been worth their effort, or the investment of their money or time.